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10 Tips for “Surviving” Holidays with Family

by Norris Law Group on November 27, 2013

10 Tips for “Surviving” Holidays with FamilyAre you dreading spending the holidays with your immediate or extended family? Marie Hartwell Walker, Ed.D offers some advice on how to “put the fun back in dysfunctional” this holiday season in an article on PsychCentral.

Line up some co-conspirators. Walker suggests that you are probably not the only person who is disturbed by the actions of some of your family members. Figure out whom you can trust to help you make the holiday a positive experience, and prepare in advance. “Tag-team” with that person or people to deal with the “toughest” family members. Devise a “high sign” to use when you need to call in a replacement.

Ask your co-conspirators to brainstorm ways to give challenging relatives an assignment: Moody teens? Cranky older relatives? Bored kids? See if you can give each group something appropriate to do.

Invite “buffers.” Many people will naturally “be on their best behavior” if strangers arrive. For example, if you think it will help to invite single friends or people from church who may be alone for the holiday, do so.

Nowhere is it written that there shall be alcohol whenever a family gets together. If drinking is a problem for anyone in your family, avoid having it at the gathering. If people refuse to come if alcohol isn’t involved, all concerned may be better off.

Take charge of seating. Separate people who don’t get along. Place yourself or one of your “co-conspirators” near the most troublesome person right so that you can cut off negative conversations before they go too far.

Guide the conversation. The Conversation Game may help keep the conversation light and positive. To play, ask the person to your right to pick a pre-written card and read it the question on it. Each person at the table gets a turn, and may pass if s/he wishes. Some sample questions might be:

    • What song brings up the happiest memories for you?
    • If you were a car, what kind would you be?
    • If you were given a thousand dollars with the rule that you couldn’t spend it on yourself, what would you do with it?
    • What was the best day of your life so far?

Give kids a way to be included. Then set them free. Although they should be expected to “behave” at family functions, kids easily get restless, whiny, and pouty if they are bored. Make sure to have age-appropriate crafts, movies, and/or other activities on hand.

Set up a childcare schedule ahead of time so the adults can take turns supervising children and relaxing. Plan ahead so no one feel slighted. This can help everyone have more fun.

Provide escape routes. If people want some “alone time,” allow them opportunities to enjoy some.

After everyone leaves, reward yourself. RELAX. Making efforts to change the attitudes and routines of a dysfunctional family is hard work!

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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